Here it is, the latest and greatest expos of the hottest new 4x4s on the market. Our 26th 4x4 of the Year test took two weeks, 800 miles, seven judges, and 10 factory-fresh rigs to the dirt and beyond, all in the quest for that one shining star that wins our test. We even made our test more difficult than past years, with more emphasis on off-road ability as opposed to creature comforts. Our rigorous trails were clawing at the underbellies and side rails of the contestants, and we came home with more dents, scratches, and answers than ever before. Whether it was the tougher trails or too much low-hanging bodywork, the rock, dirt, and obstacles helped us judge what was worthy of the crown.
But before a new 4x4 can even compete, it must meet a strict set of standards. These include that the vehicle be all-new or substantially revised to provide a different level of performance, not just a simple face lift or surgical implants. A two-speed transfer case is needed to eliminate AWD rides, there must be at least 2,500 commercially available in production, and the public has to be able to purchase them by January 15, 2008. We also have to have the rig by our test dates, and we keep the winner for a year to let our readers know about the long-term durability. While some eligible vehicles never make it, most manufacturers fight tooth and nail to be part of the most important 4x4 competition in the world.
This year our contestants were the Dodge Dakota TRX4, Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Tundra, Jeep four-door Wrangler Rubicon, Nissan Titan Pro4X, Jeep Liberty, Toyota Land Cruiser, Hummer H2, and Hummer H3 Alpha. All of these rides were new or significantly changed from the previous year's model, and some were more changed than others. This was also the year of V-8 power, and that big power made a significant difference in the scoring as some vehicles came to the table with more than 400 lb-ft of torque, and torque can make a big difference both on and off road.
Will you agree with our findings? Maybe not, but dollar for dollar we'll bet that our test is far more real-world than any other mag's, with a well-laid-out testing procedure. That procedure isn't stuck in the mud but instead changes as vehicles change, all in the quest of the most objective performance data while giving you the finest subjective information you need to know. Read on and analyze the data, then see if you can come up with the winner before you turn the final page. Good luck, and no peeking!